An earthquake centered off the coast of the Horowhenua-Kāpiti region at the weekend broke records at New Zealand's leading earthquake monitoring centre.

A record number of people responded to Geonet saying they had felt they earthquake, with 26,518 people from Christchurch to Auckland reporting their experience within 35 minutes of the jolt.

The earthquake measured 5.4 on the Richter scale and struck at 11.45pm on Saturday night and was centered 50km north-west of Paraparaumu at a depth of 64km.

Of those that responded, 23 felt shaken enough to rank the event as extreme, while 11 said it was severe, and 291 thought it was strong. Geonet classed the earthquake as moderate.

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The earthquake now held the record for the most felt reports at Geonet. The previous record holder was the M7.8 Kaikoura earthquake, with 15,840 felt reports.

But balanced among those figures was the realisation that in a major earthquake, people affected were more concerned with survival rather than recording the fact they had felt it.

There was also an ever-increasing number of respondents as more people with smartphones were downloading the app and having their experience recorded.

The weekend's earthquake followed a lighter 4.7 magnitude shake earlier that evening at 7.27pm, also at a depth of 57km, and also 50km north-west of Paraparaumu.

There were 3700 people that responded to Geonet as having felt what was classed as a minor earthquake.

Social media came alight with people describing their experience. Many people were in bed at the time and were woken by the shake, describing the shake as "a good one" and that it also "sounded like a truck approaching".

Several dog owners spoken to by Horowhenua Chronicle also reported strange behaviour in their pets leading up to the earthquakes.

Geonet records and monitors earthquakes. While both weekend events were too small to cause a tsunami threat to New Zealand, it was a reminder to coastal communities of processes to follow in the event of a tsunami.

The rule of thumb was that if an earthquake was particularly strong it could possible trigger a tsunami, or if it also was a prolonged shake of one minute or more.

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Meanwhile, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has a website with information on what to do before, during and after an earthquake.

The Earthquake Commission (EQC) has a website with information on how to get your home, apartment, or rental prepared for a natural disaster.

And if you feel a long or strong earthquake, or receive a tsunami warning alert, get to higher ground immediately, and remember in an earthquake to Drop, Cover and Hold.